Mini Review ARTICLE

Front. Genet., 21 March 2013 |

Exosomal miRNAs as biomarkers for prostate cancer

Nina Pettersen Hessvik1,2, Kirsten Sandvig1,2,3 and Alicia Llorente1,2*
  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Institute for Cancer Research, Oslo University Hospital – The Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo, Norway
  • 2Centre for Cancer Biomedicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
  • 3Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

miRNAs are small non-coding RNAs that finely regulate gene expression in cells. Alterations in miRNA expression have been associated with development of cancer, and miRNAs are now being investigated as biomarkers for cancer as well as other diseases. Recently, miRNAs have been found outside cells in body fluids. Extracellular miRNAs exist in different forms – associated with Ago2 proteins, loaded into extracellular vesicles (exosomes, microvesicles, or apoptotic bodies) or into high density lipoprotein particles. These extracellular miRNAs are probably products of distinct cellular processes, and might therefore play different roles. However, their functions in vivo are currently unknown. In spite of this, they are considered as promising, non-invasive diagnostic, and prognostic tools. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the Western world, but the currently used biomarker (prostate specific antigen) has low specificity. Therefore, novel biomarkers are highly needed. In this review we will discuss possible biological functions of extracellular miRNAs, as well as the potential use of miRNAs from extracellular vesicles as biomarkers for prostate cancer.

Keywords: exosomes, microvesicles, extracellular miRNA, prostate cancer, biofluids, biomarkers

Citation: Hessvik NP, Sandvig K and Llorente A (2013) Exosomal miRNAs as biomarkers for prostate cancer. Front. Genet. 4:36. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2013.00036

Received: 22 January 2013; Accepted: 02 March 2013;
Published online: 21 March 2013.

Edited by:

William Cho, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Hong Kong

Reviewed by:

Francesca Fanini, Istituto Scientifico Romagnolo per lo Studio e la Cura dei Tumori, Italy
Alessio Paone, Ohio State University, USA

Copyright: © 2013 Hessvik, Sandvig and Llorente. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Alicia Llorente, Department of Biochemistry, Oslo University Hospital – The Norwegian Radium Hospital, Ullernchausseen 70, Montebello, 0379 Oslo, Norway. e-mail: